Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hardcore Means You Show Penetration

In any fandom these days it seems like there is some sort of demarcation that separates the ‘true’ fans from the johnny-come-latelys. Y’know that thing that lets old-timers say ‘back when things were good’ or lets fans of any seniority claim elite knowledge because they know about super-obscure such-and-such.

In Japan, the root definition of ‘otaku’ before the West prettied it up was ‘maniac’… as in ‘detail obsessor that needs to get a life’. The Japanese can pursue an area of interest with a single-minded zeal that inhabitants in few other countries can approach. I suspect fat, middle-aged British and American military history collectors can come pretty damn close.

But it you follow discussions and articles on the internet or in periodicals, you can sure find a lot of fans acting like maniacs about their chosen interest (read: passion). There’s a lot of foaming at the mouth about how things ain’t like they used to be, the big companies only put out crap that’s sinking the industry, competition and innovation is being stifled, if you don’t listen to/play/buy X then you are a tasteless fuck and fuck those tasteless fucks anyway.

Here’s what I have to say to all of that: ‘Don’t fall in love with anything that can’t love you back.’.

I have an awful lot of stuff I’m into. Some of it I’m ‘passionate’ about. But y’know what? If they were to stop making, updating, or continuing ANY of it… I might not like it, but I’d survive.

NONE of the issues we have with our interests is worth rising emotionally to a level beyond annoyance. Really. And fans that disagree with you, or heaven forbid contribute money to something you don’t like? Disagree with their choice sure… but why slag on 'em?

‘They aren’t members of MY community motherfucker!’


The original motivation for this post was for me to get some thoughts out on the whole 'hardcore versus casual' debate in video games. But I realized this argumentative tendency is not exclusive to the gaming community and in fact is typical of any organized fandom. And for what? Is any of this shit really that important? I was going to get into some crap about how we should be open-minded, or people’s definition of good, quality, or fun is different, or how the voices of minority jerks tend to drown out the majority of level-headed people. True as all of that might be, it ultimately doesn’t matter.

Music is fun. Video games are fun. Movies, and books, and anime, and militaria, and all that stuff is fun. Or it should be. I think we get so heated or obsessive as fans that we lose sight of the fun part. But I guess bitching about tasteless fucks is fun too. Or it must be to a lot of people anyway. When you find that little corner of interest you feel you can call your own you get pretty defensive… or offensive. Even if no one is really attacking you. Even if the companies really don’t have it in for you.

Music might be a little different. Because music reaches a little deeper and can affect outlook, dress, attitudes, and a host of other things on a more fundamental level than other interests. It is possible for other pastimes to have that effect, literature and manga/anime come to mind, but with music it is common for one’s lifestyle to be thematically tied. This has also led to very real persecution. If you wear another music-influenced lifestyle openly into a deeply redneck bar you could have a few problems before you find your way out again. A music fan might get a pass on feeling bent towards certain other subcultures… but they still have no excuse for assholery towards fellow genre citizens. Not known for their subtlety most of the time, metalheads (my most closely-identified musical affiliation) are a real collision of solidarity and ‘you listen to those faggots?’.

I often find myself getting really interested in something only to find it go mainstream soon after. It is kind of a joke among friends of mine actually. Like I’m a barometer for the next big thing. But I’m also a supporter of stuff that flares up into popularity and then dies out. And I’m okay with that. Whatever happens with video games, or kaiju films, or manga, and all that stuff, I STILL have the things that made me a fan in the first place. In the case of some things like music or video games I’ll never own it all. Never ‘complete’ the collection. Even if these things stopped getting made this very second. And no one can take my interest away from me. I might grow out of something… or give up on it. That’s up to me. Arguably, Sony ‘fanboys’ may have helped kill of my beloved Sega consoles, but I can still play those consoles. I can buy more games for them. Nothing changes the fact that, for me, they are great machines.

On a gaming forum, I asked for some definitions of ‘hardcore’ versus ‘casual’. The battle between these two extremes has permeated message boards, magazines, conversation… all levels of video game discourse. I can’t pick up a gaming periodical that doesn’t have some mention of this issue. It seems to mostly center around the Nintendo wii and DSi and the manufacturer’s strategy of really reaching beyond the dependable core game audience. The fear is that all this catering to the so-called casual gamer is diluting the resources needed for companies to continue to produce the games ‘true’ gamers really want. There was some good points made about how the definition of ‘hardcore’ and ‘casual’ have probably changed in common usage, and whether people on said forum actually self-identify as ‘hardcore’ themselves. Ironically, as I’ve found in discussions on music or lifestyle or tabletop wargaming, or any fandom, most discussers eschew labels’themselves or FOR themselves, but don’t actually have too much of a problem applying them to other people… usually toward the negative if their ire has been raised.

And that brings me around to my real main point again. I guess I’m at a loss as to why our ire does get raised most of the time. I mean, if someone personally insults you, fair enough. But whether Sony is out to screw you with the PSPgo and its new software system… what does it matter? Don’t buy it! Your world won’t end!

I remember reading on some Nintendo site a while back: ‘its like I’ve always said, Nintendo just wants your money, and they’ll do what they have to to screw you’.

Like you’ve ALWAYS said? How much fucking mind time do you spend contemplating Nintendo and its corporate ways? Newsflash! Nintendo and all other companies that SELL something are out to make money. Sometimes they do it in a ‘good way’ and sometimes the do it in a ‘bad way’. It is subjective at any give time when a marketing move is good or bad. The beauty of our consumer society is that you can vote with your dollar. Don’t like it? Don’t buy it. Particularly on these elective entertainment ‘fanboy’ pursuits. If your geek object fades away into obscurity because it just isn’t marketable to the legion of tasteless fucks, you will live. I'd like to assume that 'like I've always said' is hyperbole on the part of the writer, but you still have to wonder just how many times they have actually come 'round to that topic, and if it is just as cathartic now as the first time they typed it?

I spent a lot of years working for Games Workshop, a magnet for nerds and fanboys feeling betrayed by marketing decisions. My time there really gave me an appreciation for what company staff really feel and go through when they have to deal with rabid fandom. I will never say a bad word about my time with GW. I loved it there, and I still love the company and the people I worked with. How often will you read THAT on the internet, GW gamers? You don’t really know what the hell is going on inside a company to bring it to the decisions in makes. While I worked there you wouldn't believe the 'truth' I heard from gamers supposedly in-the-know about what my own company was doing. They'd walk up to me at conventions and say 'is the reason you changed the models for blah-blah army because the sculptor has a heroin habit? That's what GW staffer 'X' told me!'. WTF NERD?!

Not all the decisions will be good ones, but seeing a place have to pay its employees, provide insurance, ensure safety, stay in budget, satisfy customer service, etc etc. can really open your eyes.

I don’t actually think there is anything wrong with geeking out over stuff. Or making your pastimes important. If you don’t let it rule your whole life, obsessing over the ephemera of such-and-such can be fun. And a real social rallying point… or a social disaster depending on how you handle it. Context people. Not everyone wants to know the details of your 42nd level monk/thief. But these things don’t REALLY matter. Not next to the loss of life in a terrorist bombing, or a child being diagnosed with cancer. Now if someone goes on a message board for supporting cancer victims and says ‘fuck malignant lymphoma’ I am not going to say a word.

This whole ‘blog is about being hardcore about this thing or that. I’ve spewed out a lot of words here. But I’m the last person in the world who’d say any of it is actually important. My perspective isn’t the last word, but gaining some kind of realistic perspective should probably be the goal of anyone who has spent time in a flame war over a video game or feels betrayed by a faceless corporation.

Uh, assuming you didn’t just get fired from there that is. THAT'S important and you might have a case for slagging then.

If whatever you love sells out and gets all shitty. Move on. Make note of it wherever you have to, to whomever you feel, but try not to waste a lot of energy on it. You might need that energy for when your Mom dies in a car accident tomorrow.

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